If you’re a man looking for the ideal physique and you don’t fancy spending long and boring hours in the gym for the sole purpose of shaping your body – which are the best sports to pursue?

The obvious answer here is that it depends what type of physique you’re looking for – and to start with that ideal. For any “normal” men who don’t have any hang-ups about wanting to be bigger than the next guy – this means having quite a cut and sculpted physique – with all-round fitness and an attractive shape; the type you would expect to see at Sports Personality of the Year. This precludes many sports that seem to turn the male shape into a hulking mess including body-building for size (which isn’t a sport in the true sense of the word anyway) along with things like rugby union (certainly for the forwards), American football and other things like weightlifting, power lifting etc.

Similarly at the other end of the spectrum, most men don’t desire to be the shape of a distance runner – who often look too skinny and weak.

Thankfully, there are many sports in the middle ground that offer good levels of stamina, suppleness and strength, whilst building a good all-round physique. The best tactic is to look at the shapes of the men who do these sports and work back from there.

Here are four of the best…



For some men, the swimmer’s physique is ideal. Swimming is excellent for all-round fitness and helps develop big muscles along with good definition. It does develop a rather square-shouldered look, though, which isn’t always popular with some people.

Swimming is ideal for men in middle age as it can be continued indefinitely.



Boxers also develop generally excellent physiques. The intensity of training required for the fight game is like no other sport and the physique developed by boxers tend to do the talking for themselves. Apart from the super-heavyweights, perhaps, or some of the very lightweight boxers at the other end of the scale, boxers have excellent shapes and the definition is often amazing.

It’s partly for this reason that “boxercise” has become so popular in recent years. If you can train like a boxer, you’ll develop a physique like one.

Developing an interest in boxing and watching the fights can certainly help spur you on in the gym. Whoever your boxing favourite is, it’s a good idea to try to emulate his actions with a punch bag etc. and to have the kind of shape you’re hoping for in mind as you train. Just make sure this is a realistic and achievable ideal for the kind of basic body shape nature gave you – whether endomorph, ectomorph or mesomorph – then work steadily towards the ideal.



It’s probably fair to say that the majority of track and field athletes don’t possess the kind of basic physical shapes that most men would like to emulate. The main exception to this rule is the sprinter’s classic shape (though some athletes like decathletes, javelin throwers and others often have excellent physiques).

The 100, 200 and 400 metre runners are often powerfully built and don’t have the overall skinny slightness of form that is a pre-requisite for speed over and longer distances.

There is a lot of information on the web about sprint-training and if you follow these guidelines, your figure will change gradually into that of a sprinter. But as with boxing, you will also need to be prepared to spend long hours in the gym. With sprint training, of course, a lot of the emphasis is on short, sharp bursts of explosive energy.

But recent research from Nottingham University has shown that such short bursts of activity (of just 20-30 seconds at a time) can have a radically improving effect on our overall fitness levels.



In many ways, male gymnasts often have the most desirable overall male physiques. It’s easy to see why. The level of control required is amazing – so the gymnasts have to develop muscles where most of us aren’t even aware that we have them!

Just try doing a few basic and simple gymnastic moves or even yoga exercises etc. whilst holding yourself in the perfect form and position – and you’ll quickly find out what we mean. Those small, perfectly controlled movements take an incredible amount of core strength in all the muscles of the body – and are incredibly difficult to achieve. It’s similar in many ways to Pilates, although generally a lot tougher.

With gymnastics, it’s harder to just get started on your own using videos from YouTube etc. and a bit more dangerous than the other sports on this list. So whilst with all the sports on here, it’s a good idea to seek out expert help to get the basics right before you start in earnest. This is arguably even more important with gymnastics. This is also the hardest one in which to reach a level of competence without expert coaching and the hardest to take up if you’re already in your middle “plenties”. But it’s also one of the most rewarding for your physique and overall sense of well-being.